An important change made through the recent ordinance in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act, 2013) relates to dropping the provision of issuing a fresh notification to enable application of the “beneficial” provision of LARR Act (rehabilitation and compensation) in case provisions of other laws were to be used for carry out land acquisition. Apparently, this has not gone down well interested sections. Demands are now coming in for exemptions from applying this provision on state laws. One of the first to come up with such a demand is the Maharashtra government. The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) has strongly opposed the move. A NAPM statement:
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has demanded (click HERE to read) that the Maharashtra Industrial Development Act (MIDC) should be exempted from the applications of the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LAAR) Act, 2013. The reasons cited are not only misleading but also far from the truth on many counts. One of the key factors mentioned is that land is required for the implementation of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and that the MIDC Act provides better compensation and resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) to farmers and projected affected persons (PAPs), and mostly through consent.
We would like to point out that the Maharashtra government is misleading the public on the following points:
- Compulsory Acquisition under MIDC Act:Section 32 of the MIDC Act mandates that whenever government needs land for furtherance of the objectives of this Act, or for the purpose of development, a notification wpi;d be issued, and before that a show cause notice would be issued to the farmers explaining why their land needed to be acquired. Does this sound like seeking consent? It needs to be noticed that 9,715 families of 69 villages in Maangaon, Roha and Tala talukas have received notifications for acquisition of a total of 24,207 acres of land for Dighi Industrial Area as part of the DMIC corridor under the MIDC Act. Farmers have been protesting there, and the state government from time to time has been saying that it will exempt these villages from Dighi industrial area, but no de-notification notice has been issued yet.
- Compensation, R&R to Farmers and PAPs: The MIDC Act has no provision for R&R to PAPs; it compensates only the land owners. The MIDC Act refers to the definition of land and affected persons as it existed in the colonial land acquisition law of 1894, which was very limited and did include livelihood losers when land was acquired for developmental projects.
- Lack of Land for Projects: There is no shortage of available land in the state. The Maharashtra government has no record of percentage land utilised and unutilised with the MIDC, even though in the past 50 years it has acquired more than 13 lakh acres of land. Provisions of the MIDC Act are more draconian than the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which leaves little scope for the consent of the affected population.The Maharashtra government by its own admission has a land bank of 80,000 hectares (ha) with it.
In Aurangabad and nearby areas large chunks of land are under the threat of acquisition for the DMIC. However, in the year 2000, the MIDC had acquired 902 ha of land, but to what purpose? Those affected by the Jaikwadi dam as well as the Paithan MIDC have neither been allotted land in the command area, nor have they received employment in spite of repeated assurances. Only 50 per centof the factories in the MIDC phase-I are operational, and apparently they wait for the right time to sell those lands for real estate. The state government is keen on acquiring 10,000 hectares of land belonging to 24 villages to develop the Shendre-Bidkin Industrial Zone under the MIDC. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has already made plans to acquire 15,000 ha of land belonging to 28 villages.
- Farmers’ Suicide in Maharashtra: It would do good, if Fadnavis showed some concerns for the farmers in his home state. With a land bank of 80,000 ha, he is only feeding the profit-hungry corporations, but is doing nothing for the farmers, who have already become PAPs due to various irrigation projects like Waang Marathwadi, Jaikwadi, or Lavasa Hill City. It needs to be mentioned that at least 3,146 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2013,as per the National Crime Record Bureau. Since, 1995, nearly 60,750have committed suicide. and on an average, 3,685 farmers in the state took their lives every year between 2004 and 2013. What has Fadnavis done for them?
CAG Audit Report on SEZs Exposes the Corporate Land Grab and False Claims of the Government on Employment Generation and Development:
False Claims of Employment Generation and Development: The claims of development and employment generation are exposed not only for the Maharashtra government but for also the Union government, as pointed out in the CAG report on the performance of the SEZs. CAG has said that land grab was the only motive behind the SEZs’ development, and corporates were given favour in the name of development. Out of 45635.63 ha of land notified in the country for SEZ purposes, operations commenced in only 28488.49 ha (62.42 per cent) of land. In addition, we noted a trend wherein developers approached the government for allotment/purchase of vast areas of land in the name of SEZ. In terms of area of land, out of 39,245.56 ha of land notified in six states, 3,5402.22ha (14 per cent) of land was denotified and diverted for commercial purposes. Many tracts of these lands were acquired invoking the ‘public purpose’ clause. Thus, land acquired was not serving the objectives of the SEZ Act.
In four States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal), 11 developers/units had raised Rs 6,309.53 crore of loan through mortgaging SEZ lands. Out of this, three developers/units utilized the loan amount (Rs 2,211.48 crore, i.e. 35 per cent of Rs 6309.53 crore) for purposes other than the development of SEZ, as there was no economic activity in the SEZs concerned.
CAG further notes that on various other counts SEZs failed to achieve their stated objectives. Of 152 SEZs analyzed, there was a deficit of 65.95 per cent to 96.58 per cent in employment generation, for investment 23.98per cent to 74.92 per cent, and for export 46.16 to 93.81 per cent.
The CAG report only confirms what we have been saying about the Union government continuing to push and facilitating land grab by corporations for large-scale profit and nothing else. As per the available data from the Union Budget, Rs 5.32 lakh crore (roughly three times the supposed loss in 2G scam), of corporate tax, was foregone. What is the Union government doing for the farmers?
Eminent Citizens write to President, Prime Minister, Vice President and Speaker, Lok Sabha:
Seventeen eminent citizens led by Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, V Mohini Giri, Shanti Bhushan Vandana Shiva and others wrote to the President with Copy to PM, Vice President, Speaker Lok Sabh and urged that “.. as the custodians of our Constitution of India, we urgently appeal to you to rethink and reject the Ordinance, and advise the government to table the contemplated amendments to LAA 2013 in the forthcoming session of Parliament, so that people’s representatives will be able to democratically discuss the issues involved.”
They further added that the LARR Act, 2013 was a progressive legislation which, without being against industries and projects, public or private, gave farmers and land-losers a measure of control over their lives. It took cognizance of the fact that time has come to protect prime agricultural land and minimize displacement. The British legacy had to be left behind. The current Ordinance negates or dilutes what has been achieved by years of sustained efforts by people and initiative by pro-people politicians to get LARR Act, 2013 enacted.
Resistance to Continue, Protests During the Budget Session:
We reiterate that the people’s movements would not allow this corporate design of the government to succeed and any bid to forcibly acquire land will face stiff resistance across the country. We will challenge every move of the government to hand over precious resources to the Corporate Houses in the name of “Make in India” initiative. This initiative is solely aimed at naked loot and promoting Crony Capitalism in the country. Our affiliate members in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and other states have already lodged their protest rejecting the ordinance. We will continue to expose the government and Corporate loot and mobilise all progressive forces along with the people’s movements during the Budget Session.